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An incredible week of Cam's Kindness


It's defined by Merriam-Webster as 'the quality or state of people kind, treating people with kindness and respect.'

In Pittsburgh, it's defined in two simple words.

Cameron Heyward.

For the second straight year, Heyward spread Kindness in the Pittsburgh community, giving back as a part of 'Cam's Kindness Week' through his Heyward House Foundation.

It's an opportunity for him to show love to those who might need a little, provide guidance to those searching for it, and to uplift those who need a boost.

"I had a blast doing it last year and I wanted to do it again," said Heyward. "I had the opportunity to go all over Pittsburgh finding different ways to give back."

Heyward joked that last year he ran out of kindness by the end of the week, but that was anything but the truth.

"I was just a grumpy old man by then," he said with a smile.

There was no grumpy in him last year, or this year as he is out and about spreading kindness.

Heyward was honored as the Week 8 NFLPA Community MVP for his efforts this week. The NFLPA is making a $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice and he is eligible for the prestigious NFLPA Alan Page Community Award, which is determined by a league-wide player vote in January from among the season's 18 Community MVPs. The winner receives an additional $100,000 donation from the NFLPA for his charity.

"I really do enjoy giving back to the community and this just really highlights everything my foundation does, everything my teammates try to contribute," said Heyward. "It's a celebration to try to give back to our community.

"It's giving back to our community in fun and special ways and having teammates and everyone participate. I get to do things outside of this week, but we get to put an exclamation point on the year and what we were able to accomplish."

Heyward is focusing on his role as a mentor not just in the Steelers locker room, but the community as a whole, with the direction he is approaching this year's events. Earlier this season Heyward won the Ambassador Daniel M. Rooney Champion of Mentoring award, presented by The Mentoring Partnership.

"For me it's about trying to impact my community," said Heyward. "Giving young people a chance and connecting through this platform. I am lucky enough to play for an organization that allows you to do that.

"There are so many kids that are looking to just partner and people to connect with. We might not have the same backgrounds, but I want to be an advocate, I want to continue to give back. I want to make sure they understand there are opportunities to be had."

Heyward has had his share of mentors in his life, from family to coaches to teammates, and he welcomes having the opportunity to take on that role.

"I had so many mentors in my life and role models that I learned from," said Heyward. "They came in unexpected ways and expected ways. Whether it was my football coach, my friends' dads who were coaches along the way. My mom, my dad, my grandparents. Even sometimes older teammates, having a chance to pick their brains. I've had mentors on this team before, whether it was Brett Keisel or Troy Polamalu. Guys I always looked up to and seeing their work ethic and seeing how they cared about their communities. Seeing the way my mom battled back for us and took care of us. My dad working his tail off. Over the years I feel like I've had mentors and role models in so many different ways.

"When I learned from them, I didn't know I was learning. But I just want to provide those avenues to give people a chance to, to help kids bounce back from whatever they're going through."

Take a look at Pittsburgh Steelers' DT Cameron Heyward giving back to the community

Friday, October 27

While this entire week of spreading kindness has been special for Heyward, Friday's event is one that hits close to the heart.

The opening of another Craig's Closet.

Heyward launched Craig's Closet in 2018 to honor his father, the late Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward, who died of brain cancer at age 39. Heyward played football at the University of Pittsburgh, and when he arrived as a freshman running back, he had only one suit, something he was grateful to at least have coming from a single-parent home with six siblings.

With so many young men in Pittsburgh facing the same challenge of not having a suit that they could wear to a job interview, their internship, events and more, Heyward came up with a plan. Craig's Closet provides free dress clothes to help young men as they move forward in life.

"With me and my brothers, we always try to honor our dad and we know we've all been given blessings beyond," said Heyward. "It's up to us to honor that legacy and expand on that legacy, because through that we can only be better men."

Heyward was on hand for the ribbon cutting of the newest location at Brashear High School. Craig's Closet provides young men in high school with free dress clothes they can select from Craig's Closet for interviews, internships, banquets, and more to help them achieve their goals and move forward in life.

"We've had a chance to give back to some high schools and we're just growing, providing suits for young men, things like ties, shoes," said Heyward. "I love hearing the stories of how they feel empowered behind it. When they feel they look good, they feel good about themselves, and that makes them want to play good, or go out and seize the world.

"It feels like you're providing tools for their toolbox and it's allowing them to succeed at a high level."

This is the latest installment in one of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, something Heyward has been focused on.

"It's helpful for the students," said Christian Loeffert, the Principal at Brashear High School. "Life is stressful, being a teenager is stressful. Sometimes just trying to find the money to get the necessities such as a suit. Suits are expensive. Dress clothes are expensive. Trying to get what you need to be successful is tough these days. This opportunity is going to give our students the attire they need to move forward successfully.

"For our teachers and staff, having the students have confidence in themselves will help them in their classrooms. This is a great opportunity for Brashear High School."

Heyward has had multiple opportunities to see the impact Craig's Closet has had, including through his yearly Suiting Up for Success Soiree. The event celebrates male high school seniors who show leadership, sportsmanship, hard work, and good character despite their challenges. Each teen receives a custom suit and new shoes and share a formal dinner with Heyward that includes motivational speakers.

"We get to see them in their suits, and you get to see the smile on their face," said Heyward. "They have the feeling of being prepared and going forward in life, whether it's a college interview, job interviews, the prom, anything like that.

"I feel happy about taking that that little bit of from them, alleviating that type of stress off their plate and allow them to get excited about what they want to do going forward, not being shy and not hiding from it, but saying I'm ready for this moment. And it might be part of it.

"We're hearing their stories. And then we're bringing entrepreneurs from all over Pittsburgh who tell their stories. These are the fields our kids want to get involved with. We're killing two birds with one stone. We're providing the suit for the job interview and then you're meeting someone that almost started the job interview. When you do that, it's not just blowing smoke. We're really trying to attack it and tell you, hey, now you got this, and we see you're a sharp dresser. Let's see what you can do with that sharp dress."

Heyward will also be hosting several Brashear students and their guests at Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Acrisure Stadium and providing them with pregame sideline passes.


Thursday, October 26

After the Steelers wrapped their day at practice on Thursday, Heyward headed to George K. Cupples Stadium to visit the Westinghouse House High School football team as they prepare for Pittsburgh City League Championship Game against University Prep on Saturday night.

Heyward was there not just to provide some encouragement to the players, but also to gift them with suits and ties for their end of season football banquet through The Heyward House and Craig's Closet, one of the main projects his foundation has undertaken.

"This is the next step before adulthood for these kids," said Heyward. "Most of these kids are going to go off and not have the necessary tools to succeed. Whether it's Craig's Closet, where we provide suits, or just inform them and be an extra resource for them, someone they can rely on. They don't always get that. If I can provide that in some way, I look forward to it.

"Being able to provide that encouragement. They have had a really good season. They have had people donate their time and effort to the team, which is fantastic. To be able to provide something like this, something that the families can't always afford and to take that weight off their shoulders, prepare them for the banquet, I am happy to do that."

Heyward remembers when he was growing up he went to his own football banquet, something he always enjoyed.

"It was a good time being with your teammates, celebrating with your families," said Heyward. "Those were fun times. I loved going to them."

And having something like a suit and tie to wear to the banquet can go a long way.

"It changes their responsibilities," said Heyward. "It helps them mature and prepare for those moments. It might not be an awards show, but whether you are giving a presentation or you are going to a job interview and you have to dress up, now you know what it feels like. Now you are using those high school moments to prepare you for life."

Heyward talked to the team before practice, providing encouraging words for them and giving them some great advice.

"It's amazing. I just feel gratitude," said Westinghouse Coach Donta Green. "I am so happy first and foremost that we have a Cam Heyward in our community. It was really good for our kids to be able to get an honor for the things they do off the field. We tell them they do a good job, we provide positive re-enforcement, but for outsiders to see it and recognize it is big for us.

"It's an opportunity to come up for air. They are grinding every single day. Sometimes it feels like you are going in one spot, and you are not moving forward. To have someone like Cam recognize the work they do, it's like a breath of fresh air."

While Heyward wasn't able to stay for the dinner, he was excited to be able to provide the team a meal, as he knows how hungry he is when coming off the practice field.

"When you are done practicing, you want to crush some food," said Heyward. "I know it's only one day, but it's just a thank you and we are letting them know we are thinking about them."

Heyward is hoping some of the things he is doing this week make people realize the impact they can have on others, and inspires them to do similar things.

"Cam's kindness is my week, but you can have your own week of kindness and find ways to give back," said Heyward. "You don't need a big platform to do it. There are plenty of ways to do it and we are trying to make an impact."

Heyward's younger brother, Steelers tight end Connor Heyward, can't help but see what his older brother is doing in the community, and it rubs off on him.

"Just to give back to the community. It's the little things, to take time out of your day," said Connor Heyward of what he has seen his brother doing. "Try to find something that is close to your heart and give back. I have been seeing him doing this since he has been in the NFL, and I take it seriously and am trying to get more involved. I know a bunch of younger guys are as well.

"Just seeing him do the right things, his character, his leadership, leading by example, but also being a vocal leader. He is somebody that does all the little things, tries to give back and has a really big heart."


Wednesday, October 25

Heyward knows the pain of losing someone you love. He understands how hard it is to deal with the grief you feel. He experienced it firsthand when he lost his father, Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward, when he was just a teenager, and the pain was real.

Finding someone to talk with in an effort to deal with the pain and grief is important. And in Pittsburgh, The Caring Place offers that support for kids.

Heyward is getting involved with The Caring Place for the first time this year, wanting to help kids who have dealt with the same pain he has.

"I want to help those who lost someone they loved, that are dealing with the grief of that loss, especially kids," said Heyward. "The more I learn about myself, there are times where I miss my dad and the family members I've lost. I don't know if we do a good job of honoring and remembering them all of the time, and just talking about them."

The Caring Place offers programs to support children and families who are grieving after a devastating loss. And the statistics are sad, as one in 12 kids will have a parent die before they graduate from high school.

Heyward visited there on Wednesday night, first taking a tour and then sharing his story about losing his father with those who have experienced similar loss.

"I lost my dad at 17," said Heyward. "I lost my grandfather not too long ago. But for children going through it, you've got to have the right support system in place to battle that. I learned that over time. I don't know if I had all the right tools then, but I am trying to be give words of wisdom and let them know I have their back."

The Caring Place began in 1996 in Pittsburgh and since then it's expanded to three additional locations. Thousands receive help each year at no cost through peer support programs, education, consultation, and referral services.

Heyward was able to participate in an art therapy project with the group, using it as an outlet to express what is in their heart.

"We were so pleased to have Cam Heyward here with the kids to share his own story of grief," said Terese LaVallee, Executive Director of The Caring Place. "The kids found it so meaningful. That they are not alone. That someone like Cam Heyward has also gone through what they are going through. 

"When a kid has somebody that they love die, they feel like they are the only one going through it. Even though one in 12 kids will have somebody close to them die by the time they graduate high school, they still feel like they are alone. When you talk to other people who had it happen as well, you know you're not the only one. When someone like Cam Heyward comes and says, me too, my dad died too, and I understand because he really does because he went through it. It gives them hope that life can go on and you can be successful and still have a very good life even though tragedy has happened at a very young age." 

Heyward knows how important it is to have a resource like The Caring Place in Pittsburgh, providing a service that truly can change a child's life and the direction it heads after a painful loss.

"I think it's very important," said Heyward. "I'm not always equipped to do it. Parents aren't always equipped to help. Teachers aren't always equipped to help. Providing tools like they do and giving kids the right outlets to do it properly, I think it goes a long way."


Tuesday, October 24

Heyward understands the importance of believing in today's youth. He knows they often need a second chance. He believes that with the right leadership, kids who went down the wrong path can be steered into the right direction.

That is why he gravitated toward the work being done by Café Momentum Pittsburgh.

It might sound only like a fun place to go for a good meal, but it's much more than that.

It's a place where youth get that second chance.

Café Momentum Pittsburgh opened earlier this year as a place where Pittsburghers can go and enjoy fine dining. It also offers a culinary internship to youth ages 15 to 19 who are justice-involved. Café Momentum, which originated in Dallas, provides a transformative experience through a 12-month paid post-release internship program. Participants rotate through the restaurant, focusing on life and social skills, coaching and development.

Heyward embraces the work Café Momentum is doing, donating $50,000 to the organization last year through the Steelers Social Justice Fund.

This year, he wanted to take it one step further by visiting the restaurant as part of 'Cam's Kindness Week' and learning more about the individuals taking part.

"For our kids, it's important to see influential folks in the community who are showing an interest in them," said Gene Walker, Executive Director of Café Momentum Pittsburgh. "Obviously Cam Heyward and the Pittsburgh Steelers are a big deal in town. Our young people and staff are excited.

"For the organization, it's important to show the community that other organizations in the city who are well known and respected are buying into the work that we are doing. And Cam has shown that over and over with his time and generosity to come here.

"Our goal is to help our young people find, create and live out a vision for their future that is different than what they can see now. We do that through workforce training, social services and mental health. It really is a community effort to help support the young people of our city."

He met with the interns to talk about breaking the cycle of incarceration and violence they have been affected by, and then helped prepare a meal that he enjoyed with them.

"I don't know how much cooking I am really doing, but I get to see the real chefs cook and have some fun," said Heyward. "It's an interesting way to give back with the kids who are going through so much.

"Things are tough, but it's good to find a smart outlet, cooking food for the community. It's a great path to get these kids on. And it's really starting to grow all over the United States. It's a great idea and I'm excited to be a part of it."

While the cooking aspect, and eating, was the fun part, the conversations that were shared over the meal is what was really impactful.

"You have to listen to their stories," said Heyward. "They need people who care, people who are willing to listen."

Heyward would love to see more options like this become available for youth, where they can learn new skills and find a positive path to future success, and he wants to help make kids aware that there are options that do exist.

"It's huge to have places like Café Momentum," said Heyward. "These outlets can come in so many different ways. The hard part is the kids don't have the right ways to always find them sometimes. But they are there, and they need to grow.

"I love that Café Momentum is so different. It's not just your cookie cutter type of experience. It's really finding a way that a kid could benefit and have a hobby or two that turns into a lot more in life."

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward (97) visits Café Momentum during Cam’s Kindness Week, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. (Taylor Ollason / Pittsburgh Steelers)

Monday, October 23

When Heyward talks about wanting to help youth with what they're going through, the first stop for him during 'Cam's Kindness Week' was unquestionably UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

"I was in Children's Hospital when I was young," said Heyward. "I wouldn't be around today without them. I know there are kids going through similar and tougher situations. I know how rough it can be.

"I had really bad asthma growing up. Really young I had seizures. I always had bad allergies. I was allergic to real Christmas trees. I spent time around Christmas in the hospital one year. I kept my mom awake late at night, but I am glad to be where I am now.

"I enjoy going back there. Those kids there, they're just happy to see everybody. Some can't leave. Some can. But it's really special to interact and have a little bit of fun."

Heyward made a stop at the hospital on Monday morning, less than 12 hours after returning from the team's game in Los Angeles, and was joined by his younger brother, Steelers tight end Connor Heyward and actor Joe Manganello.

"We're so excited that Cam has chosen to visit a second year in a row during his week of kindness and spend some time with the patients and families," said Rachel Petrucelli, President of UPMC Children's Hospital Foundation. "As you can imagine, being hospitalized can be a stressful time and a scary time, both for the children and for their families. When we have someone like Cam come to visit and delight and surprise our patients and families, as well as the whole community here at Children's Hospital, it's a big deal.

"It brings some normalcy to their day, giving them a place to go, and also helps to alleviate some of the stress, fear and anxiety and provides a distraction."

He kicked it off by reading 'The Circles All Around Us' in the Dream Big Studio, so it could be available to all patients on their TVs in November.

"You just don't know how much that means to a kid," said Heyward. "I know it's pretty minimal in their world, but we just want to provide as much as we can."

There was more though. Heyward spent time visiting with patients in the atrium, playing games and passing out No. 97 jersey pillows to the kids for them to have something to make their day a little brighter as they deal with things.

"It's a little celebration. Something to remember the visit by," said Heyward. "Hopefully I can create a couple of Steelers fans out of the room.

"But more, hopefully I can show them that I care about them, that we care about them. I just want to do something to help uplift them, help them get through the tough days of being in the hospital.

"Getting to interact with them, hear their stories, learn about their hobbies. I read a book, I don't think I did a good job, but I had a blast doing it. And finding out their stories and giving a little light to their day."